Kate Sunday—the wife of my pastor and fellow-elder David Sunday—was recently diagnosed with advanced thymoma. She is 40 years old, and they have three children in the home.

Walking alongside them through this has been both painful and encouraging. Painful to see our dear sister suffering and to see the effects of the Fall in her life—encouraging to see their unwavering confidence in God’s goodness and the truth and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On her Caring Bridge site the other day (quoted with permission), she wrote something that’s crucial to remember in times like this:

David has been leading me in this journey. When we first entered the hospital on Jan. 29th and began learning that there was a strong suspicion that I have cancer, a great fear sought to grip our hearts. Right away David began speaking to me and reminding me of God’s goodness. He challenged me to stay away from the “why” questions.

Why me?

Why now?

Why when my children are still so young? . . .

He reminded me that those questions may not ever be answered on this side of eternity, and will lead me to confusion, despair, and bitterness against God. I am so grateful that David is a strong and compassionate leader.

Instead, he challenged me to focus in on the “who, what, and how” of the situation.

Who are you, Lord?

What do you want to teach us about Yourself?

And, how do you want to use us for Your glory?

Amen.

Please pray for the Sundays, that God would continue to keep them faithful and that God would heal Kate from this cancer.

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21 thoughts on “The Right and Wrong Questions to Ask When You Get Cancer”

  1. Erik says:

    Justin,

    Thank you so much for such a God-centered perspective in the midst of such tragically sad news.

    I can only hope I respond like this if I ever find my wife in such a life-threatening situation.

    May God’s grace, peace and comfort be with Kate and David during this time.

  2. Words to live by in any trial.

    What is God doing that so many of His children are suffering with cancer at the moment?

  3. Dan S. says:

    Having lost my father at a young age due to a brain disease, I can relate to this.

    However, I don’t think it’s necessarily wise to censor all “why” questions as long as the “who, what and how” questions are also kept in mind.

  4. Richard says:

    Dan is absolutely right on this–don’t think you have to censor those questions as long as you know Who is in control. Think, David on this issue.
    For me, good theology and books showing this, helps. One good book, “Too Good to be True,” by Dr. Michael Horton, where Horton talks briefly about his family’s journey through suffering–and then, the work of God through it; and what a theology of the Cross means. Highly recommended.

  5. Eric says:

    Justin, in light of this you might be interested in a book recently published by Banner of Truth: “My God Is True: Lessons Learned Along Cancer’s Dark Road.” The author, Paul Wolfe, is the associate pastor of my church.

    http://www.wtsbooks.com/product-exec/product_id/6599

  6. Reg Schofield says:

    I echo the statement by Richard . There is nothing wrong in crying out to God and saying why, but if we are grounded in a solid robust understanding of God , those cries will not go to utter despair. My wife faced cancer over 2 years ago and after surgery and treatment has been doing very well , praise God but the sovereignty of God has been a profound help . Knowing He numbers our days , regardless and we are His in Christ.
    I heartily recommend Horton’s book “Too Good to be True,”as well . It deals honestly with suffering and disappointment without the the typical pat , cliched answers we have all heard . We will pray for healing and grace for this family .

    1. Richard says:

      Reg–my wife faced breast cancer, went through surgery almost three years ago. I took Dr. Horton’s book into the waiting room with me as I waited for the results. What was ironic is–the day I brought her home after a week’s stay in the hospital after some pretty brutal surgery, we sat in front of the TV for some comic relief on TBN. We saw and heard Joel Osteen talking about a friend who had cancer and “thought away” his cancer cells through positive thinking. I wanted to put my foot through the TV. This is what a “theology of glory” gets you.

  7. MatthewS says:

    About “why” questions:

    It is significant that on the cross, Jesus used the words of a human poet to utter a why question. Thousands of years ago, it was theologically OK and it was human for the psalmist to ask a why question. And Jesus appropriated the words in his own suffering.

    In a different context, Job asked honest questions.

    I believe that squelching honest questions is not helpful. Go to psalms of lament, etc. and use them to express what is in your heart to God. “Sacred Sorrow” by Michael Card is a good book for this. The psalms are poetry that both express and lead. I think it is appropriate to let them help give voice to your heart and let them lead you to God.

    My heart goes out to Kate and the other individuals mentioned in the OP and the comments. I just prayed for them.

  8. Justin,

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post. Lets face it cancer sucks, it can really bleed the life out of a family that is having to watch a love one go through such a trial. My father recently passed on to be with the Lord after battling cancer. It was no easy ordeal, however God was so gracious during the whole process to our family and he continues to do so. Thanks again for the post.

    Nathan Cotton

  9. Ray Ortlund says:

    Thank you, Justin. May the Lord draw near to them, moment by moment.

  10. John Klein says:

    Brother David and Sister Kate,
    David: Your words of the shepherding of your wife, will be shared to shepherd my flock Sunday morning.
    Kate: There is a sweetness that you share with us all, in the holding to the words of your earthly shepherd, your husband. And the sweet words of “for Your glory” evidence God’s grace to us.

    I will pray, and ask my congregation to pray…that by gifts of grace, “for Your glory” will become sweeter and sweeter. And we will pray for Kate’s healing.
    in Jesus,
    John Klein

  11. Jason says:

    I’ve met David and Kate (at Crossway Kenosha several years ago) and will keep them in prayer. Thanks for sharing, Justin.

  12. Leslie says:

    What great reminders

  13. Russ says:

    Justin,
    Thank you for this post. My wife has a terminal health condition and what was described in the quote is what we deal with in our hearts daily. The part that challenged me most was the words, ” David has been leading me in this journey. When we first entered the hospital on Jan. 29th and began learning that there was a strong suspicion that I have cancer, a great fear sought to grip our hearts. Right away David began speaking to me and reminding me of God’s goodness. He challenged me..” I pray that I am that kind of husband. Thanks.

  14. Tim Bahula says:

    Justin,
    Thanks for making me aware of David and Kate. I will be praying for them. My family is walking a similar road. My wife was welcomed into the presence of her Saviour on February 10, having been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer only two weeks earlier. We have been married for 17 years, have been serving as missionaries in Trinidad & Tobago since 2002, and have 6 children ages 3 – 14. The Why questions are difficult to escape.

    1. Richard says:

      We are praying for you, too, Tim.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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